Ecuador Frequently Asked Questions

Courtesy of Attorney Sara Chaca.

Contact Us with any questions.

Culture & Climate

Q – What is the language of Ecuador?

A – Spanish and Quechua are the national languages, but many other dialects are spoken by many indigenous populations. English is widely spoken, mainly on places frequented by visitors and tourists. Having at least a little/some Spanish along with perfect English will generally get you everywhere you need to go in Ecuador.

Q – I have children. Do they have International Schools?

A – Yes, please see the following below listing of them:

Q – Where are the Gringo Nights in Cuenca?

A – The most popular Gringo Night get-togethers of expats and English-speaking visitors in Cuenca are on Friday night at

  • Café Eucalyptus: Gran Colombia 9 – 41 at Malo
  • Inca Lounge and Bistro: on the Barranco just east of Malo
  • Terrace Bar and Grill: Av. Del Estadio 1 – 36 at Astudillo

Q – What are the usual business hours in Ecuador?

A – Both public and professional offices are generally open Monday to Friday, from the hours of 08:00 AM until 1:00 PM and also from 2:30 PM until 6:30 PM. Malls and shops are often open until 9:00 PM, and some places like airports and bus terminals operate 24/7 every day.

Q – Does the time change by season in Ecuador?

A – There is no daylight savings plan. The time zones are fixed UTC/GMT is -5 and Galapagos is -6.

Q – What is the climate in Ecuador?

A – Being on the equator you can pick the climate of your choice by selecting the appropriate altitude (Lower = Warmer, Higher = Cooler). Due to the location in the middle of the world, there are no marked seasons. The country has four regions with different climates.

The Galapagos Islands offer a pleasant sub-tropical climate and an average temperature of 75°F year-round. The area experiences two distinct seasons, the hot rainy season (from December to May) and the colder garua season during the remaining months of the year.

The Coast tends to be dry and hot in the south to more tropical and humid in the north. Temperatures vary from 75°F-88°F. The area experiences two distinct seasons, the rainy season (from December to May) and the dry season during the remaining months of the year.

The Andes climate varies according to the altitude. Although the region is said to experience a sub-tropical climate throughout the year, visitors will find a variation from hot in the south to temperate to cold in the north, especially in the higher altitudes. Temperatures can be between 45°F- 65°F in the north to 55°F-75°F in the south (eternal spring!). Remember always to have a jacket! It is common that you might experience the four seasons in one day!

The Amazon is generally warm and humid. Although the region experiences rain and mild temperatures between 70°F-80°F throughout the year, it also has a dry season from October through December when temperatures can get into the upper 80’s.


Q – What about rental properties?

A – In Cuenca there is quite a demand for rental properties as more foreigners arrive each month. It is a great idea to rent before you buy. This does give you the chance to see if you like it enough to want to purchase a property. Just remember while you are pondering on whether to buy or not prices will change or that much loved property you have had your eye on has sold.

Q – Can I buy Real Estate in Ecuador?

A – Any foreigner can buy real estate in Ecuador, and then either live in, rent out or later sell their property. It’s naturally advisable that you seek an Ecuadorian Attorney to help with your purchase (i.e. Real Estate Closing) and to make sure that the land is free of all encumbrances (i.e. debts, liens, taxes, etc.) and that the person or company whom you are buying the property from actually owns the land.

Q – I have heard that most purchases of property require cash. I also heard if a loan can be obtained, up to 30% down is required and at high interest rates with very short terms. Not the usual 15 or 30 years here in the US. What is your experience in this?

A – Yes, for a foreigner to buy a property in Ecuador, it must generally be paid for in cash. The only time you pay a down payment of say, 30%, is for a pre-construction or rather for an installment sale. Then over a period of the next 6-12 months you make monthly installments and a final payment on completion of the project or per the “Promise to Buy & Sell“ with the constructor or current owner. Financing is difficult to obtain for foreigners who purchase a property in Ecuador, though there are sources for Private Mortgages in Ecuador – feel free to send me an email to if you need a referral for a private money lender in Ecuador.

Q – What are the annual taxes on a property like in Ecuador?

A – Depending on the price of the property that you have purchased, generally the property taxes are no more than $100-300 per year.

Q – Should I work with a local Realtor?

A – I strongly advise that you work with a local Realtor who of course can speak English. The reason being is that you are a “Gringo” who is purchasing a property, and so from a local’s point of view, you could also be a target for a higher price. A quality Realtor will get you the price you want to pay in most cases – I happily refer English speaking Realtors in Cuenca, Cotacachi and the coast to Expats who email me requesting that.

Q – How do I know which Realtor to choose?

A – You don’t. But in Cuenca, Cotacachi and the coast I can certainly help with recommendations.

Q – What is the “Buyers Agents Commission” and who pays for it?

A – You as the buyer do NOT ever pay the Seller’s commission to the Realtor. That is INSTEAD paid by the Seller to the Realtor, ALWAYS.. In Cuenca, I can certainly recommend a Realtor who only acts on the buyer’s behalf and does NOT “double dip” by receiving a Seller’s commission as well. The Realtor’s job as well is to work to reduce the asking/purchase price to help YOU the buyer. If you need a Realtor referral, just send me an email and I’ll be glad to do so.

Q – Because it can get cold, can you buy a room heater or what do you recommend? Can you buy flannel sheets? Where can I buy good bedding? Can I buy a printer for the computer?

A – Yes is the answer to all the questions above. There are many stores where you can buy these products. I would suggest checking out the Coral, SuperStock and Sukasa stores for bedding and you have small electrical stores around the city where you can buy heaters and printers. Two great shopping malls are Mall del Rio and Monay Shopping center.


Q – What is the Currency in Ecuador?

A – The US Dollar is the national currency, and you can always pay for anything in cash (small denominations of $20 bills or less are the norm for most transaction types). All credit cards are accepted in major shopping malls, restaurants and most formal stores all across Ecuador. You can use your debit card to withdraw money from ATM machines located everywhere in major cities at either no charge or only at a 1% commission (i.e. $0 or $1 charge for a $100 withdrawal). Most international credit and debit cards are accepted (identification may be required). The most common credit cards are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diner’s Club as well as others (plus again debit cards as well). Travel checks are NOT generally accepted anywhere in Ecuador.

Q – Is food expensive?

A – Fresh produce from the markets is very inexpensive and I have found that most items in the Supermarket is reasonable. You will pay quite a bit more though for imported goods. In the markets you can buy a whole basket full of goodies for around $10. Again, it depends on the individual and your lifestyle.

Q – What about TAXES & TIPPING?

A – Ecuador’s government sales tax (IVA) is 12% and applies to most formal goods and services that visitors buy in Ecuador. An extra 10% for tipping automatically applies for services at restaurants. Taxi drivers are NOT commonly tipped in Ecuador. It is a good idea to keep small change on you at all times in Ecuador, as most small businesses and taxi drivers can’t regularly make change from anything more than a $10 or $20 bill ($5 bills and $1 US coins are quite handy in Ecuador).

Q – What is the price of gas?

A – It varies like anywhere, but the last time I checked it was around $1.50 or so per gallon for regular.

Q – Can I do Business in Ecuador?

A – Doing business in Ecuador is not as easy as you think. Make sure you get plenty of advice and appoint a good Attorney. I have heard some horror stories about foreigners being ripped off by locals even though they thought they trusted the local person they were doing business with. A good site to visit is “Doing Business” measuring business regulations around the world.


Q – How do I fly into Ecuador?

A – Travelers to Ecuador from the U.S. can choose from a number of U.S. and Latin American airlines. These are American Airlines, Avianca, Continental Airlines, COPA, Delta Airlines, LAN, Mexicana and TACA. European carriers, Iberia, KLM, Air Madrid and Air Europa flight daily from Amsterdam and Madrid to Quito and Guayaquil. Non-stop flights depart from New York, Miami, Madrid and most Latin-American capitals. Ecuador’s national airline, TAME offers good service between all major cities in Ecuador, operating numerous daily flights between Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil as well as serving the Galapagos Islands. Other national airlines include Icaro, Aerogal, and Saereo which offer flights to several cities and towns along the Coast and the Andes, as well as the Amazon and Galapagos Islands. LAN also now operates throughout Ecuador.

Q – I want to come to Cuenca. Where is it best to fly to, Quito or Guayaquil?

A – This depends on what other travel you are deciding to do whilst in Ecuador. If you are interested in spending some time anywhere on the coast, then fly into Guayaquil and then come to Cuenca via bus or taxi. However, if you want to see Quito, Otavalo, Cotacachi and/or Ibarra, then naturally fly into Quito instead and later come to Cuenca via either domestic flight, bus or taxi.

Q – What can I expect when I arrive at the airport in Ecuador?

A – You will arrive into Quito or Guayaquil International Airports, each having modern terminals and baggage claim areas. After you pass through Ecuadorian Customs, it‘s easy to get a taxi inside the airport, as there’s no need to take a taxi outside of either airport‘s “Arrivals” (pick up) area. Naturally as with any Airport, simply be sure to keep your personal belongings close to you or on your person at arrival and departure, whether you’re exiting the Airport or if you‘re staying in the Airport waiting to take a domestic flight to another final destination city in Ecuador.

Q – How do I get to Cuenca from Quito or Guayaquil?

A – You can take a domestic flight from either Quito or Guayaquil to Cuenca, or alternatively (often preferably) you can also take a bus or taxi (specifically at that for the relatively short trip from Guayaquil to Cuenca).

Q – How do I get to Cuenca from Guayaquil?

A – There are a few options. You can take any of the domestic flights via Lan, Aerogal or Tame, or you could take a Mini-Van (3 or more hours of scenic driving to Cuenca) or hire a private driver. A Mini Van is $12 per person and a private driver that is both English speaking and reliable is usually around $140. From Quito, I would suggest a domestic flight, but you can also take a bus or taxi, which is usually around a 6-8 hour drive, naturally depending on traffic conditions.

Q – Where do I stay in Guayaquil?

A – There are many places you can stay at in Guayaquil, but one that I do recommend is the Hampton Inn. If you book online in advance, you can pick up some great deals. Also, I like that they have a free shuttle bus from Guayaquil Airport to the hotel, as then you also don’t need to worry about a taxi. Of course you can Google and find your own accommodation, including in Quito and Cuenca as well – I’ll be glad to give you a specific recommendation for Quito or Cuenca based on your specific plans/desires, if you send me an email requesting that specifically.

Q – Transportation on Land throughout Ecuador?

A – As most roads are paved, buses are fast becoming a popular and convenient means of transportation. In addition, since the country’s main attractions are within a day of Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, bus transportation can be the most inexpensive option for travelers on a budget. Most bus companies have modern, air-conditioned buses. Clients should be advised to travel by day, since there’s less risk of an accident. Because Ecuador is small and has a good network of roads and highways, ground travel within the country is easy and quick, well most of the time.

In Ecuador, taxis are safe as well as readily available, inexpensive (a 10 minutes ride will cost no more than US$ 3.00) and mostly clean. They are all wired with radio frequencies and might be called by phone from hotels and restaurants. Taxi drivers are courteous and many will speak at least a few words in English. This mode of transportation is an excellent option when visiting main cities and towns.

When in a city like Cuenca you can even get to know the taxi driver and get his number if he works your area. They are happy to come and pick you up from your residence.

Trains in Ecuador are more of an attraction than an efficient mean of transportation. The most popular journey is from Riobamba to Devil’s Nose, where the train climbs through a very narrow path to the top of a cliff and then descends a steep slope zigzagging back and forth-a truly hair raising experience.

Driving in Ecuador is also a good option in tourist areas. Outside less frequented parts of the countries drivers can get lost since the road signage is not that adequate. When renting a car, drivers should closely follow a road map. Major car rental companies with offices at the Quito and/or Guayaquil international airports are Avis, Budget and Hertz.

Q – What about Travel Insurance?

A – It’s recommended to buy Travel Insurance (usually offered at a low additional cost with any flight purchased on the internet) in order to avoid cancellation fees in the case of being ill or some other covered occurrence takes place. Health Insurance which covers you in Ecuador at any time or as part of/in addition to your Travel Insurance is also recommended (though NOT at all mandatory) for medical reasons.

Q – Can I bring my pet into Ecuador?

A – Yes you can. Of course, there are certain requirements that you will need to get done, such as vaccinations for your pet, etc..Depending on which country you’re coming to Ecuador from, you may need to consult your Airline that you will be traveling with, besides your pet’s Veterinarian and your Ecuadorian Immigration Attorney.

Q – Can I bring my car?

A – With respect to importing a vehicle into Ecuador, only “returning Ecuadorian Citizens” who had/have been outside of Ecuador for at least 2 consecutive years. That being said though, please note that public transportation in Ecuador is very inexpensive and actually a high percentage Expats prefer to walk from place to place in most any Ecuadorian city/town, because of the very intelligently designed roads and sidewalks in the vast majority of Ecuador these days.

Q – Can I bring a container of household items?

A – Once you have become a resident there is a generally a 6 month period of time thereafter that you are allowed to bring in a Container, Lift Van or Pallet of your household goods (i.e. appliances, electronics, furniture, etc.). Contact us for information and referrals.

Q – Is it easy to get around Cuenca?

A – Yes, you can walk to most places in Cuenca, as it’s a very walking friendly city. A cab to most areas around the city is around $2. The most you may ever pay is a maximum of say $4. Buses and the Tranvia (train) in Cuenca are each well under 50 cents.

When using Taxis--street addresses are not as useful as they are in North America. If your destination is not a well-known landmark, it is often best to provide the nearest street intersection (e.g. "Calle Larga y Benigno Malo") or show the distination on a map (e.g., Google Maps). Also, there is a "minimum fare", for very short rides you may need to pay a bit more than shown on the meter.

Q – Is there a good bus route in Cuenca?

A – Yes, the bus routes are excellent in Cuenca, at again generally less than 50 cents per trip. A great website to check out Cuenca’s bus routes in 100% English is found here.


Q – What about Cell Phones?

A – There are two different primary Cell Phone companies in Ecuador, those being Movistar and Claro. Again, it depends on your personal preference, although Claro seems to work better in rural and coastal areas. You can purchase a cell phone for as little as $50 in Ecuador and you can buy pre-paid cards for use on the phone with either of these companies.

Q – What are the phone dialing details?

A – For calling from the U.S., dial 011, plus 593, plus the local area code, followed by the number you wish to call. Local area codes in Ecuador are: Quito (2), Cuenca (7), Guayaquil (4), Galapagos (5), and all cellular phones (9).

Inside Ecuador, each province has its own area code as detailed above, but you must add a (0) before the above shown single digit code number. Mobile phones generally have good reception in Ecuador and are extremely modern, plus roaming is available for many international phone operators. Check with your mobile phone service provider to see if you can use your current cell phone in Ecuador. GSM (with or without chip) and TDMA are the most used systems in Ecuador.

Q – Can I get the internet?

A – In Cuenca we have found the internet to be of a high standard. There are several different companies to choose from and you will need to ask around to find out which one will suit you. The cost is approximately $56 per month. But check with the individual providers.

Q – What is the electricity voltage in Ecuador?

A – Ecuador uses 110/120 AC 60 Hertz. Plugs have two flat pins, like the ones in the U.S. Power converters and plug adapters are available for purchase in electronic stores. Main hotels frequented by international tourists use the same 110/60-cycle current as in the U.S. For European and Asian devices you might need an energy converter.

Q – Can I get Direct TV?

A – Yes and I believe it depends of the package you buy as to how many stations you can view. But you do have movie channels like HBO and Max. The news channels like CNS, BBC, and Fox Life. There are also the Discovery channels and I know you can get good sports channels because a friend of mine is an avid sports fan.

Health & Safety

Q – Can I drink the water from the tap?

A – In Cuenca the water supply is excellent. BUT I would not recommend drinking from it if you have only just arrived. Our stomachs tend to have to get adjusted and it is advisable to drink from bottled water. As the water still contains fluoride we drink bottled water which we have delivered once a week. For washing food, etc. the tap water is fine.

Outside of Cuenca–bottled water is recommended for consumption.

Q – What about crime?

A – Of course crime exists like in any country all over the world. Foreigners are targets and all I can say is that you need to be aware when moving around. Luckily I have never been robbed and have never felt unsafe walking around Cuenca.

Safety Tips:

  • You are at the highest risk in isolated places after dark (e.g., on a river walkway) and in very large crowds (e.g., festivals).
  • While the vast majority of people you meet will be friendly, well-meaning, and even come to your aid if you are robbed (yell "LADRON" (thief)) –there are some desperate people.
    • Children are often used for pick-pocket and snatch-and-run crimes.
    • Pick-pockets often work in teams--some will distract you while their partner robs you. Be alert when approached unsolicited.
  • Don't walk around with unnecessary valuables or important documents that are difficult to replace. In most cases a copy of your ID (passport, driver's license, schedula) will do. Have a photo of your ID on your phone or a photocopy in your pocket.
  • Carry necessary valuables in a chest-high bag. Bags on your back and pockets (even front pockets) are easy targets.

Q – Can I expect good Dentistry and is it expensive?

A – Yes you can get inexpensive and good quality work done in Ecuador.

Q – What about seeing a Doctor?

A – There are many English speaking Doctors in Ecuador and highly trained specialists.

Q – What is hospital care like in Ecuador and is it expensive?

A – Ecuador and especially Cuenca, has some of the most modern state of the art equipped hospitals. Surgical procedures and hospital stays in Ecuador are probably far less than you would pay in the US.

Q – Will I be able to buy my prescription drugs in Ecuador?

A – Usually, yes and if they don’t have your brand name there will be a generic brand at a far lower cost than you are probably used to. There are some differences between the drugs available in each country.

It is common to go to a pharmacy when you do not feel well rather than going to a doctor first. Many times the pharmacy can help upi with a medication that would require a prescription from a doctor in the US.

Q – Are there Health Food Stores in Ecuador?

A – Yes but they are a little different to how we know the Health Food Stores. There are natural product stores where you can buy all sorts of Vitamins and minerals. I would say that mostly everything is available. Sometimes it just takes a little extra time to find them.

Q – Where are the natural product stores in Cuenca?

A – You will find quite a few stores in Cuenca on Presidente Cordova (left side of the street before you get to San Francisco square) and on Presidente Borrero – plus there are other ones on the very popular Calle Larga in Cuenca as well.